My Company Raised Over $1 Million on Indiegogo — And It Almost Killed Us
Back in 2014, we were the most funded European campaign ever on Indiegogo. We finished at almost 800 percent of our initial stretch goal in just 60 days, and it felt like we could walk on water. With sales intent sky high and praise coming from all sides, we were thrilled.
Related: The Basics of Crowdfunding
We learned a great deal from our mistakes, and now we want to pass on any pearls of wisdom we gained in the process to the crowdfunding founders of the future.
Crowdfunding is an overpromising stunt.
Crowdfunding is a fantastic way to get an idea out there and test the crowd. But it’s also a stunt. A stunt where you overpromise and oversell on something that hasn’t even been born yet.
Originally, Airtame was thought to be a product for all users, so when we changed the focus of the product from B2C to B2B, we received an immense amount of backlash from the backers. It’s a certain naivete that comes with being in the innovation business. Facebook started as a university forum platform, Airbnb was a service to rent out an extra room — and Airtame was the new streaming device for all use cases: classrooms, meeting rooms and Netflix users. When we narrowed down the use case and changed our focus to an enterprise setup, we optimized our execution strategy.
With a more narrow focus however, would our campaign have been as popular? Would the stunt have been as significant, the campaign as successful? We can only guess. Even if we had known then what we do now, we probably wouldn’t have changed dreaming big first — and then facing reality.
Related: 4 Rules for Successful Crowdfunding
It was impossible to predict the changes.
Crowdfunding, on the whole, is a gamble for backers. Sometimes that’s even part of the appeal. Backers expect a couple of hiccups with the product, but that doesn’t mean that all delays are excusable or acceptable. We, too, fell into the trap of promising too much, too quickly.
Our funding goal was set to $160,000, and when we landed on $1.3 million just a month later, we were taken aback. How could we live up to that? Customer support, marketing, sales, product development. All departments had to live up to not only our ambitions but the ambitions of the many excited backers following our journey.
To manage that, we perceived every new challenge and every bump in the road as an opportunity to better ourselves as a team and as a business. In fact, that’s what we still do. From customer feedback to PR, everything is a new possibility to grow.
Customer success is key.
With so many backers and funders, we couldn’t keep everyone happy. Especially not since our product focus changed and the first product was unable to perform as promised. We quickly learned that keeping backers in the loop constantly was the only way to create some ease of mind.
Catching up and responding wasn’t easy, and our support team worked their butts off to answer a backlog of several thousand support tickets and feedback messages. We thought we’d drown in feedback. We couldn’t stay on top of things.
That’s when things turned around for us. We set up a solid support system with the motto “No customer left behind.” No matter how small or insignificant a message might have seemed, we would answer truthfully, humbly, honestly and, above all, kindly.
Today, we talk about customer success. Our answer rate on chat support is less than three minutes. Without the feedback we get, we couldn’t develop a better product. And without a great support system, customers won’t stay happy and provide the input needed. It’s a circle, and we’ve learned to jump right in.
The most valuable lesson taken from our first days of answering support tickets is that good support is only possible if employees are content. If you want happy customers, make employees your first priority, then customers your second. Content employees are more engaged, and that rubs off on users.
You can’t deliver everything you promise.
We had an initial goal to deliver something truly incredible, and we were ready to fight for it tooth and nail.
The pressure to release a much-hyped product meant we either had to lower the price, quality or shipping time. Since we’d already delayed shipping and we couldn’t lower the price without losing our vision completely, we lowered the quality of the product. We would rather ship something than nothing.
Today, that focus has shifted. Any product from us, hardware or software, is thoroughly tested and won’t leave the assembly line before we’re satisfied.
The struggles made us better as a team.
Besides the product-focused learnings we got through the crowdfunding process, our campaign helped build a value-driven and soon-to-be company culture. The trust, openness and honesty that came from the challenges we faced has made us an ambitious yet still humble company.
We had to know precisely whom to recruit because if we didn’t, the whole process of delivering would’ve fallen apart.
We don’t forget where we came from. We wouldn’t have made it to where we are today if we hadn’t invested in a company culture right from the beginning.
Should you crowdfund?
Since that campaign just four years ago, we’ve managed to scale successfully from the original founding team of five individuals to 85 and counting. Despite the initial hurdles, we’ve shipped more than 90,000 well-functioning devices.
Crowdfunding almost killed us. A couple of times, even. But, instead, it made us stronger both as a team and regarding the product we now have.
One question remains: Would we do it again? And if yes, how would we go about it? First of all, yes, we would. Doing something so big and challenging as a crowdfunding campaign for the first time is a unique experience. And I say that in the most literal sense of the word.
You have no idea how arduous a journey it’s going to be when you begin. If you did, you probably wouldn’t try. That’s what’s so magical about this business. It’s going to be difficult, and you’ll want to give up all the time. Where we’re at right now is the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s taken us years of experience and trial and error to get there.
If you have the drive, the ambition and the idea — just like we did — then go for it. You can’t learn without trying, and you can’t get better without starting